Prisoners is a provocative thriller about a father who takes justice into his own hands when his little girl is abducted.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and, when authorities fail to solve the case, Aaron Guzikowski’s script pulls no punches as it depicts the father’s transformation from doting family man to snarling judge, jury and executioner.
Explosions of violence are graphic, justifying the film’s 15 certificate. When characters suffer, they do so in sickening close-up.
The film begins with Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) hunting with his teenage son, Ralph (Dylan Minnette).
They return home with a slain deer and the entire Dover clan, including wife Grace (Maria Bello) and daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), heads over to the home of their neighbours, Franklin (Terence Howard) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis), for Thanksgiving lunch.
Soon after, Anna and the Birch’s girl, Eliza (Zoe Soul), disappear and never return.
The two sets of parents are distraught and Ralph remembers a suspicious RV parked down the road.
Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) and local police arrest the driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), who has the mental age of a 10-year-old.
Without any evidence to link Alex to the crime, police are forced to let their prime suspect go back into the care of his mother, Holly (Melissa Leo).
So Keller kidnaps Alex at gunpoint and holds the young man hostage.
“We hurt him until he talks or [the girls] are going to die,” Keller tells Franklin.
Prisoners is technically polished and director Villeneuve composes some stunning images with cinematographer Roger Deakins, bleached of colour and hope.
Guzikowski’s script pushes Keller to the edge of the abyss then curiously leaves him standing there for the final hour, throwing in numerous plot twists.
Jackman is mesmerising as a protector willing to ignore his moral compass to reunite his fractured family.
Gyllenhaal invests his rebellious cop with an array of twitches and ticks that hint at rage bubbling beneath the surface while Dano is both pathetic and creepy as a man-child, whose innocence remains shrouded in doubt until the tricksy closing frames with fine performances and a slick final act that ties up the loose threads.
PRISONERS (15, 153 mins) Thriller/Romance/Action. Released: September 27 (UK & Ireland) Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, David Dastmalchian, Melissa Leo, Dylan Minnette, Erin Gerasimovich, Zoe Soul. Director: Denis Villeneuve.
SWEARING - NO SEX - VIOLENCE - RATING: 7.5/10